Man buys looted Iraqi objects, returns them to museum
A hotel owner said Monday he has bought and returned 157 valuable objects, some more than 3,000 years old, looted from the Iraqi museum after Baghdad’s fall in April.
“A thief showed up at my hotel because I have foreign clients, asking me to help sell artifacts looted from the Iraqi National Museum,” Abdulatif Hassan Aziz, 47, told AFP. “I gave him the impression I was going to help him, and as he kept visiting me, I made him feel these ancient artifacts were not anybody’s property because they belonged to the country and future generations, and that they represented Iraq’s history,” he said.
Aziz, who owns Al-Yamama hotel on central Al-Saadun street, said he finally “convinced him to buy them at a price lower than what he wanted from foreign clients because I had told him that I was going to return them to their rightful place at the museum.”
Aziz said the looter had previously been sentenced to death, but had been released after the general amnesty declared by former president Saddam Hussein last year. “I returned the artifacts to the Iraqi National Museum about 10 days ago and authorities there told me that I could keep one artifact,” said Aziz.
“But I refused and told them that I did not want to take anything home for myself and prevent it from being seen by future Iraqi generations,” he added.
Aziz said the artifacts included seven golden objects from the Assyrian era, eight copper objects, bracelets for women and children as well as Babylonian and Ottoman seals. The hotel manager said he witnessed the looting of the Saddam Arts Center on Haifa street “because it is right next to my house”.
“The US troops looked happy to see people stealing,” he said. —AFP